As early voting gets underway in the 5 county 20th judicial circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, I though I’d take an opportunity to weigh in on a local race that I feel strongly about. I am writing to endorse James Chandler, who is running for Circuit Judge. I have gotten to know Mr. Chandler well over the last several years, and think he would be an excellent choice for the circuit judge position. Mr. Chandler and I both worked at the State Attorney’s office when we moved to Southwest Florida. After I went into private practice, I had cases against Mr. Chandler and found him to be fair as a prosecutor.
Chandler later went into private practice, where he handles not only criminal defense, but also civil matters such as family law. That’s important, as our circuit judges can end up handling both criminal and civil cases: Mr. Chandler has the background to handle both. Mr. Chandler is someone that I would frequently discuss my criminal cases with, for strategies and legal insight, and I feel Mr. Chandler understands the and will protect the rights and fairly adjudicate the cases of all who would appear before him. He has shown himself to be a skilled courtroom attorney, including a high-profile case we covered here in Crimcourts. Mr. Chandler has the experience, temperament, and the intangibles to be an excellent judge, and I fully endorse him for Circuit Judge.
Devin George has been named to the open county court position in Lee County. Ms. George has worked at the State Attorney’s Office for 10 years, and I have worked with her over the years. She will be a credit to to the bench, and we extend her our congratulations.
Frank Mann Jr.
Lee County Judge Frank Mann Jr., son of Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann Sr., resigned from his post today. His last day of work was today, and nobody knows the reason for his resignation. Crimcourts will have our ear to the ground, but so far, nobody knows. It’s unusual for a judge to resign without notice, and as Judge Mann was relatively young, this certainly will be a shock to the local bar. Mann was well liked, and will be missed.
His replacement will be named by the governor after a standard application and review process. In the meantime, other judges will likely be called upon to cover his docket, possibly getting some assistance from Senior (retired) judges.
UPDATE: I heard from someone in court that he made a brief statement after docket sounding that he had enjoyed working there, but that it was time for him to move on to something else.
UPDATE 2: The News-Press has obtained Judge Mann’s resignation letter: apparently it was filed with the governor’s office on January 22. The decision was made at least a week ago, but it was not public knowledge around the courthouse. This will be the hot topic of discussion in the courthouse Wednesday. Mann cites a variety of personal reasons for his resignation, though he doesn’t specify any. He does say that he feels that 5 years was enough and he was ready for a change, which is similar to what he told the courtroom personnel yesterday.
UPDATE 3: the Naples News cites testimony from his pending divorce proceeding that indicates his estranged wife has accused him of financial improprieties and substance abuse issues, and says that she had filed a JQC complaint against him. Nothing can be confirmed about the complaint, but the judge on the divorce made a specific finding that there was not evidence to support
Judge Tracie Hunter
Judge Norbert Nadel has sentenced former Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter to 6 months of incarceration for her felony conviction. According to Cincinnati.com’s Kimball Perry, she can serve in the detention center so she doesn’t have to go to prison, and she can turn herself in after Christmas. Her attorney has asked to stay the sentence pending the outcome of the appeal. That’s not an unreasonable request, as there are certainly some major issues to be dealt with on appeal, such as the jurors trying to go back on their verdicts. That motion will be heard at a later time. Nadel felt that incarceration was appropriate, even as a first time offense, due to the position of trust as an elected official.
At the end of Day one in the trial of judge Tracie Hunter, jury selection is moving along. Cincinnati.com reporter Kimball Perry believes they will be able to get a jury, probably on Tuesday. The case likely won’t get to opening statements by tomorrow, and those can be expected Wednesday. The case is still anticipated to go a few weeks.
Judge Tracie Hunter
Hunter, who was serving as a juvenile judge until she was suspended after her criminal charges came down, could be facing up to 13 years in prison for the collection of charges she is facing. The charges include evidence tampering, forgery, theft and more. To appreciate the complexity of the case, I recommend the thorough break-down story at Cincinnati.com.
It’s expected to take several weeks. I’ll be watching as closely as I can from Florida, as the witness lists involve several prominent names, and several friends of this blog. Hunter is the rare judge to have major conflicts with both the prosecutor’s and public defender’s offices: special prosecutors Merlyn Shiverdecker and R. Scott Croswell III are handling the prosecution. This could be the trial of the decade in Cincinnati. #badjudge